CRESTWOOD, Mo. — Surveillance video from a Starbucks in a St. Louis suburb captures the moments before Roger Kreutz went from hero to tragic victim.
He stands in line behind a young man and woman at the coffee shop, where he's a regular customer. The young man fiddles with items on the counter while she orders a coffee, pays and heads out the door. The young man swipes the tip jar, and Kreutz, in the spur of the moment, gives chase.
What happened next is not caught on tape. Police say the two suspects, with the young man behind the wheel of a 1990s white Ford Taurus, ran over the Good Samaritan in the parking lot.
Kreutz, 54, died Wednesday at a hospital, two days after he was struck.
"I don't claim to understand it," police Chief Mike Paillou said at a news conference. He said detectives are following up on leads but asked for the public's help in identifying the suspects. He did not know what provoked them — "fear, confusion, being young?"
It's believed there was about $5 in the tip jar.
Family members weren't surprised Kreutz went after the thieves.
"He was just caring, loving, witty and extremely loyal," said his youngest brother, Chris Kreutz, 42. "That's how my brother is. I would have done the same thing."
Family alerted, reward set
The Kreutz family owns the Holiday Inn and Viking Conference Center down the street from the Starbucks. Roger Kreutz was the oldest of five brothers, and he and Chris lived in separate, converted quarters inside the hotel.
Roger often worked early and late hours, and took time in the afternoon to exercise with his brother, Chris Kreutz said. Their habit was picking up drinks at Starbucks. Chris Kreutz said he usually drank his iced latte before his workout, while his older, responsible brother waited until after he exercised.
On Monday, he wondered what was keeping his brother, who had gone for the drinks. That's when he was called to the hospital.
The brothers' father, Edward Kreutz Sr., was vacationing in Florida and hurried back to Missouri, fighting through a snowstorm on Tuesday to get here. His son was in a coma.
"I kind of feel he kept alive so I could get back to see him," the elder Kreutz said Wednesday.
Chris Kreutz said those who ran over his brother should turn themselves in.
A $20,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the conviction of the suspects. Starbucks Corp. contributed $10,000, which an anonymous donor matched.
'A real tragedy'
The Seattle-based company said in a statement that Roger Kreutz "was a longtime regular Starbucks customer whose daily presence will be sorely missed by the many Starbucks partners who knew him."
A single rose, with a note offering prayers, stood in a vase on the coffee shop counter.
Disbelief reverberated throughout Crestwood.
Nate Van Laere, co-owner of the Panchero's Mexican Grill restaurant in the same shopping plaza as the Starbucks, called Kreutz's death "a fluke incident and a real tragedy."
"It just doesn't make any sense, and hopefully they'll get prosecuted," he said of the suspects.
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